It is quite normal to feel tired or to experience fatigue throughout our lives when we experience periods of stress. There would be days where you would be working for extended hours, and nights that may even be sleepless with worry. A major project at work, finishing a thesis at the uni, preparing a party for a big celebration, excited for a baby on the way… You will most likely feel burned out after the chaos, maybe even while in the middle of it.
Low energy can creep up to you and when it stays for a longer period, it could become a real problem. You may have difficulty concentrating or feel unmotivated to do what you used to love doing. You now find it hard to regain your energy.
You are fatigued.
Getting your groove back is not as easy as drinking that energy drink or getting that extra shot of caffeine that gives you that instant kick. It is a rather complicated process and it is crucial that it is done properly. If you tend to go for that short-term burst of energy, you’d be in a lot more trouble sooner or later. Your body may just crash all of a sudden.
Approximately 1.5 million Australians seek professional help for their fatigue. It is not a medical disorder per se, but it is a symptom of something deeper. An underlying condition that may be reversed by tackling the underlying issues.
The Body’s Energy Department
You may remember being taught in grade or middle school Biology that the mitochondria is “the powerhouse of the cell”. It is true. Its main function being the production of Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP, a form of energy.
Our bodies use glucose for energy as it gets transported into the blood, hence the its name blood sugar or blood glucose. It gets converted to Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP for short, and it is required for the body’s functions such as digestion, nerve impulses, muscle contractions, and a lot more. Glucose is a monosaccharide, a simple sugar that is made up of one kind of sugar molecule and is commonly in fruits, vegetables, and especially carbohydrates. So in our modern world, we are most likely consuming enough or more than what we need. What we should be concerned about is that refined foods such as white rice, pasta, bread, chocolate bars, and cookies provide sudden but short-term spikes in blood glucose, followed right away by lows. Complex carbohydrates that are found in foods suck as brown rice, legumes, wholemeal breads and wholemeal pastas provide fibre and nutrients that slows down digestion, and the release of glucose into the blood in the process. Thus providing a more sustained level of glucose in the blood and production of energy.
The hormone that is released by the pancreas, the insulin, plays a major role in the processing of energy. It helps process, store and regulate glucose in the blood. When insulin is absent, cells would have trouble taking glucose from the blood stream, thus disabling the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, from converting it into ATP.
The pancreas plays a lot of roles in our body, being part of both the endocrine system, and the digestive system. And, as mentioned above, one of the hormones that it excretes is insulin. In some health conditions, the pancreas may not perform as it should. The same is true if a person smokes, consumes too much alcohol, or is overweight.
Free radicals, oxidative stress, chronic stress, poor lifestyle, poor food choices, genes, ageing, and exposure to toxins all contribute to the malfunction of the processes within the body, including the production of insulin and mitochondria health. It may be corrected by making some changes with one’s lifestyle. The extent to which it can be reversed, and how long it will take depends on the underlying cause.
Signs that Say Your Energy is Low
The following symptoms are signs that your energy has dipped, and may become problematic as it may interfere with performance and relationships:
- Feeling sleepy and/or tired constantly during the day
- Frequent headaches
- Brain fog
- Frequent lightheadedness or dizziness
- Decreased motivation and mood
- Irritable and feeling frustrated
- Muscle aches, sores or weakness
- Slow reaction times
- Impaired judgment
Start Turning Energy Up Naturally
Increase your physical activity. You may not be up for it due to your low energy so it may seem counter-intuitive, but exercising can actually help improve your energy levels. When you exercise, you start losing any excess weight and maintain a healthy one. This in turn, improves insulin production by signaling the pancrease to increase its release. The effects can last up to 24 hours after a workout session.
Stress less. Our body’s natural response when stressed is to increase the production of adrenaline and cortisol, which consequently increases the amount of glucose that gets transported into the blood for instant burst of energy. This is called the “fight or flight” response wherein it allows for a quick dash from an imminent threat. Long term stress would mean long term release of these hormones, and thus a chronic release of insulin. This may lead to insulin resistance wherein it gets tired of transporting and processing glucose into energy resulting to excess glucose in the blood, further leading to a plethora of other health problems.
Get sufficient quality sleep. And not for only a few days. Do this regularly. Sleeps allows the body to repair and recharge itself. It restores all the functions, including blood sugar regulation. And sleep must be uninterrupted to make it count. We have what we call our circadian rhythm. It is the body’s internal clock also known as its sleep/wake cycle. It is controlled by the hypothalamus, which releases the hormone melatonin on schedule. This hormone is what tells the body when to sleep and eat. When you have irregular sleep-wake cycles, it can mess up your circadian rhythm causing your energy levels to dip during the day.
Lessen added sugars. Cut back on sugars whenever you can in order to avoid spikes in blood sugar. Sweets, chocolates, and cakes are obvious culprits but any additional sugar can cause some imbalances when you least expect it. Stick to whole foods as much as possible. Check the labels on grocery items for any added sugars. They usually go under a different name such as corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, among others.
Choose the right kind of carbohydrates. Carbs may be the main stimuli when it comes to blood sugar and insulin levels. And you do need carbohydrates in your diet. What you need to do is to choose the right kinds. Go for complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates.
Sample of foods that contain refined carbohydrates are white bread, cookies, processed cereal, white rice, and jams. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates and must increase your intake of are wholegrain or brown bread, fruits, rolled oats, brown rice, natural nut butter (without the sugar), legumes, vegetables, peas, nuts and seeds.
What You Need To Know About Detox
When you hear the word “detox”, you may think of a bunch of juice cleanses or a quick weight loss method, or sort of a retreat from lifestyle and dietary sins that you may have been committing. There is no special formula or recipe for a miracle drink that will undo the damages that have been brought on by poor lifestyle decisions.
While it is comforting to know that our body is equipped with the right tools to metabolise and remove those harmful toxins and substances that have invaded it, it is best to still support its natural detoxification processes. To do that, the very first thing to do is to reduce, or eliminate if possible, the toxins that you have been exposed to. We’re not only talking about the usual alcohol and smoking combo that you hear often, but also those artificial flavouring and colouring that is in processed food, those excess sugar, your surroundings, and even the beauty or health products that you apply to your skin.
If you want lasting effects, you will need to detox for a long period too. Taking out toxins from your surroundings may be near impossible and difficult to do in a single strike. Start by making small changes over time. Commit to it until it becomes a habit, rather than a small quick fix.
There are four organs under the detox department. Their main function is to get filter and flush out wastes from the body.
The most important detoxifying organ in your body is your liver. It filters blood and converts toxins into a different form that will allow them to be excreted.
The colon, also called the large intestine, eliminates waste products coming from the liver in the form of faeces.
The kidneys are responsible for flushing out waste products from the blood into urine.
Dubbed as the largest organ, the skin excretes waste products through sweat.
The best ways to keep these four organs in their optimal functioning state are to:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Check the color of your urine. If it’s light yellow to almost clear, you’re on the right track. If it looks darker yellow to orange, drink a glass of water as soon as possible.
- Eat enough fibre to maintain good digestion. Thus, better elimination of wastes.
- Check the label of food you buy and eat. Additives, colouring and flavouring ingredients, especially artificial ones, place additional burden to the liver to convert them into less harmful substances. Also, fructose corn syrup increases the risk of non-alchoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that has become more common over the recent decades. Processed food, sodas, store-bought bread are ones with high content of these harmful ingredients.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activities help burn excess glucose and fat. It regulates the production of insulin and takes some pressure off of your liver.
- Go natural. Opt for natural cleaning products such as baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and/or essential oils. Refrain from using commercial chemical cleaners. You will also be gentle to the environment in doing so.
- Ultimately, stop smoking and drinking alcohol. As already stressed out, smoking is bad for anyone’s health. Avoid secondhand smoke as well when you go out. As for alcohol, some may find it hard to cut it out completely. If you must, only drink on occassion and moderately.